Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Fantastic Voyage; the human body is an alien landscape.

Our bodies are alien to us.

What we think it all looks like now

Same animation with technical commentary

What we thought it all looked like back in the 1960's when men were men, and women were beautiful girls!!

Patricia Churchland: Exchanges At The Frontier Wellcome Collection 8/10/2009.

Another fantastic speaker at the Wellcome Collection; Neuro philosopher Patricia Churchland (based at the University of California) talked about the physiology of the brain and 'Sociality' in humans. I was intrigued by her description of tests that confirmed the successes of sub-conscious decision making relative to conscious decision making, research into the influence of specific proteins and the effects of compromised frontal lobe structure on human behaviours. The discussion also touched on perception, 'causality' and notions of 'free will'.

Link to a Synopsis of key points in the discussion and to the BBC World Service broadcast.


Monday, 26 April 2010

Richard Feynman; electromagnetic spectrum

How to make the complex sound simple.....

Visual Contrast; the importance of mutual inhibition in visual perception.

This aspect of the mechanics of vision is particularly interesting and relevant. Photo receptors in the retina are wired up to accentuate contrast; this happens through a reduction/suppression of electrical activity in receptors exposed to lower levels of light wherever they are situated next to receptors that are exposed to higher light levels. This increases the difference between the two signals. In colour perception, hue and saturation are also processed through a contrast-enhancing mechanism.

'This 'contrast only' form of vision meant that the eye could detect small local variations in light intensity, even though ambient light varies a million fold between sunlight and starlight.'
(P 205)

'Only if we rob and object of all context can the eye be fooled. A full moon at night, lit by a sun we cannot see, and suspended in the non-reflecting vacuum of space appears white -yet moon dust is black.'
(P 231)

'Context is everything. The eye has no interest in absolute levels of illumination, nor colour values. Every colour is perceived in relation to every other, just as every patch of light is perceived in relation to every patch of shade. In the real world this makes colours remarkably stable.'
 (P 236)

'Humans are the descendants of night dwellers, and our excellent night vision is one of the consequences of our spell in the dark'
(P 257)

'If we are surprised to learn that blue and yellow are perceived as mixtures, how much more startling it is to discover that red- most vibrant and unsettling of colours; the colour of danger, blushes, poison, blood, and sexual arousal- is not directly perceived, but constructed whenever yellow cones are excited and blue cones fall silent. Indeed the sensation of red can be generated by removing all bluish wavelengths and enriching the yellowish green part of the spectrum. The fact that red is patently more than a formula is striking evidence that colour is neither an objective property of objects nor of the light they reflect; it is a construct of the mind.'
(P 228)

Hartline 'mutual inhibition'

Lands 'retinex theory'

Mach Band illusion

Gordon Lynn Walls - The Vertebrate eye and its Adaptive Radiation.

All references taken from
The Eye; A Natural History.
Simon Ings
Bloomsbury 1997.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Helen Chadwick; Piss in the Snow Flowers


Quotes from effluvia catalogue:
'My apparatus is a body x sensory systems with which to correlate experience' 
Helen Chadwick, 'Soliloquy to flesh', Enfleshings, Secker & Warburg 1998, p109.

'There are twelve piss flowers, each shaped by a unique, an unpredictable event in which the agency of the artist's hand is bypassed in favour of the creative power of urine, normally regarded as polluting and marginal. Here the pleasure of the taboo act is exalted through the object. We are confronted with the fabulous facts of our bodies through things which are childlike and insistent.' 

Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton
Mary Douglas, 'External Boundries' in Purity and Danger 1966. Reprint 1991 Routledge, p114-128.

Piss flowers 1991-92 Helen Chadwick 
Bronze, cellulose lacquer.

Produced during the artist's residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Alberta, Canada.

'These organic, visceral materials are transformed into complex installations by Chadwick's skilled use of traditional methods of fabrication as well as highly sophisticated technologies. The artist enjoys using materials which posses strong haptical and olfactory qualities- to wit, a huge glass column with rotting vegetable matter in Of Mutability in 1986, or, most recently, a fountain of hot bubbling chocolate in Cacao, 1994- thereby implicating the viewer in a powerful sensorial experience. Whether Chadwick is employing strategies of seduction or revulsion, or whether indeed these occur simultaneously, the spectators decipher and complete the work through their own physical presence.'

Andrea Schlieker
Serpentine Gallery
effluvia Serpentine Gallery, London, 19 July - 20th August 1994.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Victoria Rance; Metal structures and body pieces.

Tree of Forgetting 2005 Victoria Rance
Steel and Silicone Bronze

Tent Victoria Rance
Steel and Silicone Bronze